And Now For Something….Completely Different: The 1946 Bill Burke Belly Tank Streamliner

Before the Show: L to R: Roger Adams, Rick D’Louhy, Steve Cowdin and Scott Miller, Driver

Hi Gang…

I know the automotive world is not all fiberglass.  However, there are times when some of you…. or some of me…. will want to share something – not related to the fiberglass genre in any way.

In this spirit, I’ve created a new category of stories in honor of Monte Python and their famous segway which went something like this: (Click on the Play button below – which looks like a small black triangle):


Anytime I run a story like this, I’ll warn you with the 6 words that appear in the first part of the story title.  This is also the category name for such stories.

Sunrise at Amelia: An Impromptu Race for Pinks Against a Ferarri: Scott Miller, Driver; Roger Adams & Steve Cowdin Prep Team

So….without adieu….introducing our first story in our new category…which is…..

“And Now For Something… Completely Different”

I hope you enjoy the story…



Hi Gang..

Well…we made it!  The tank is only is 8 months old as of March 1st, 2010 and Ted Kempgens / Tom Bambard’s work on building the tank has been superb.   We made it to Bonneville and had a fun time (and some scary times) with it on the salt.  Driving toward Bonneville, I picked up good friend Alan Mortlock in Missouri, stopped at Dick Jones’ (Meteor SR1 designer and builder) house in Colorado to say hi and have dinner with his wonderfully gracious family and then boot scooted all the way to Bonneville.

What a Long, Strange (and fun), Trip This Has Been…

Here’s a short video of Ted and Tom taking it out on the salt for the first time during Bonneville Speed Week, August 2009 (Go Ted Go!!!):

[vsw id=”2KC-OORebe8″ source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]

Belly Tank Makes Appearance at Good Guys in Pleasanton, California August 2009

The belly tank next made an appearance at the Good Guys Show in Pleasanton, California in late August.

Bill Burke Sees Tank For First Time in Whittier California

Then, off to meet its inspiration – Bill Burke himself, and we met Bill and his son Steve at their shop in Whittier California.

Burke Belly Tank Joins 2 Other Famous Burke Creations at Entry of NHRA Museum in Fall 2009

Finally…off to the NHRA Museum in Pomona California for a nearly 6 month display for public viewing (and seating).

Getting the Car to the Field: We had to Get the Less Expensive Cars Out of the Way – And Moved to First in Line Quickly

And that was it.  I thought this was the end of it’s appearance for a while.

But…thanks to Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, the story and travels of the Bill Burke Belly Tank continued.  Bill Warner was kind enough to ask about and accept the tank for display during the Concours, and this made another first for our tank – The first belly tank streamliner on display at a world class concours – The Bill Burke Belly Tank Streamliner.

The Belly Tank Experience Isn’t Complete Until You Sit Yourself Down on the Vintage Leather 1940’s Bicycle Seat – nearly identical to the one used by Bill Burke in 1946!

Below is a collection of photographs from Amelia, and we had a ball showing it there.  And I think, the crowds of people may have enjoyed it more.  One of the things I try and do at any event is invite people – especially kids and young adults – to get into the car (in this case, belly tank) and try it out.  I can tell you, this has been a hit everytime I’ve done it, and I encourage those of you to try and do this – where it make sense for the car and the event.  And for both the Bonneville August 2009 event and Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in March 2010 – we brought the requisite goggles too!  Now….put together the goggles with the fact that the Burke Belly Tank was built with a vintage leather “bicycle seat” from the 1940’s  welded to the torque tube – and you have one unique experience!

As you peruse the pictures below, you’ll see a few familiar names and faces – and not just my own.  If you look carefully, you’ll spy both Daniel Strohl of Hemmings, and Merrill Powell from Victress trying out their turn in the tank (I tried once, but got stuck! no more times for me!).  Daniel Strohl even did a nice homage to the tank and the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in their Hemmings Blog:  Click Here to Read About the Tank in Hemmings 

Thanks to the Following People:

I hope you enjoy the pictures and thanks to the many people who made this tank possible, which include the following people:

Is that Merrill Powell From Victress in the Tank!!??

  • Bill and Steve Burke for support in learning about how the tank was built
  • Jim Miller for making historical pictures and research via the National  Hot Rod Foundation available
  • Alan Mortlock for helping drive to Bonneville – and Jenny Mortlock for letting me borrow her husband Alan
  • My cousin Tina and her husband Lynn for hosting myself and friend Alan Mortlock in Kansas – on our way to Bonneville
  • Ron Kellogg for making the pictures of the Dean Bachelor Collection from 1946 available to us
  • Ken Crawford – 2nd driver of the tank in 1946 – for teaching us about the background of the tank and racing in 1946
  • Keith Griffin for helping us find Ken Crawford – Thanks Keith!
  • Vern and Rollo Tardell for helping fix the transmission during Speedweek at Bonneville – which locked up on day 2 on the salt
  • Bobbie and Carol Green of Old Crow Speed Shop for letting me stay in their pit area at Bonneville and meet some really cool people (including them and their friends).
  • Dennis Gerdes and his rat pack that allowed me to stay overnight with them at “Camp Dennis” throughout the week at Bonneville
  • Alan and Cathy Maxcy and family in Alameda California for helping me recover after a flu set in after Bonneville
  • Gary Cerveny, Tony Migliore for coordinating and supporting the purchase of the tank
  • Randy and Steph Abernathy for helping me find the right roof rack that could carry a belly tank streamliner on my Suburban and hosting me in Sacramento California
  • Richard Russell for setting up the roof rack so I could carry the belly tank home to Florida and for him and his wife Diana hosting me in Bakersfield California

    A Happy “Daniel Strohl” From Hemmings…Checking out the View at Amelia Island

  • Dennis Gerdes for picking up the tank and getting it on the Suburban too
  • Bonnie Bender (Omohundro) and husband Lee for hosting me in Minden Nevada
  • Erich and Kenny Schultz for hosting me in Pasadena during my trip home from Bonneville
  • John Phillips for engine work – and terrific Fenton heads and intake
  • Tim Masters for terrific 17″ Ford wire wheels, words of encouragement and for treating for Wings many times at the Dogwater Cafe
  • Susan Gunn for words of encouragement and support
  • Scott Miller for Carb Rebuilding – great job on those Stromberg 97’s Scott!
  • Guy Dirkin and Carole Jackson for helping coordinate the Belly Tank Celebration party we held before the belly tank left for Bonneville
  • Brian and Randy at CMC for painting and creating and building and welding the tank from scratch
  • Greg Sharp for hosting and supporting the tank at the NHRA museum in Pomona California
  • Jimmy Smith for his quick and fantastic drawing / caricature of the belly tank – which we used on all materials handed to the public (Thanks Jimmy!)
  • Peter Vincent for shooting beautiful photography of the tank on the salt – for the June 2010 issue of Rodder’s Journal
  • Geoff Miles and Steve Coonan for their interest and support in recognizing the Bill Burke Belly Tank in Rodder’s Journal
  • Harold Pace for putting together an excellent article for use in Rodder’s Journal
  • Bill Warner and Tom Cotter for warmly inviting and accepting the tank for display at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance

    Richard Russell, Victress Employee from 1953 Spending a Quiet Moment Together with the Belly Tank After Bonneville

  • Roger Adams and two mystery helpers for helping us pull the belly tank onto the field at Amelia (it ran but with a period correct water tank instead of a modern radiator – we didn’t want to risk overheating it)
  • Rick D’Louhy for his constant interest and support in making this project possible
  • And most of all….Ted Kempgens and Tom Bambard for making this tank come alive – which has helped people realize and appreciate Bill Burke’s achievement way back with the first wing tank on the salt in 1946.

I hope everyone had as much fun along the way – as I did.

Best to all.. and save the salt….



For those of you wanting a bit more info and background on the build of this tank, see the following links from the Hemmings Website:


Click on the Images Below to View Larger Pictures


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